TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (WSAV) – Tybee Island officials are reacting to the tens of thousands of people gathering on Tybee Island’s beaches over the weekend. WSAV News 3 spoke with the city’s manager on how they’re dealing with those numbers on a beach that is only about “five miles long.”
Shawn Gillen, Tybee Island City’s Manager, estimated 25,000 visitors were on the island on Saturday: “Yesterday’s car count was just over 12,400 cars, you put an average of about two people per car and you’re looking at 25,000 people who came to the island yesterday. It was pretty much wall to wall people the length of the beach. I mean people were staying as far away as they could but when you get thousands of people like that it is very difficult.”
“I am somewhat surprised, I don’t know how busy it could be this time of year but it’s pretty busy to me,” Murray Cunningham a visitor on the beach added.
Gillen said people who live on Tybee have been calling, emailing, and texting their concerns about the large crowds gathering. Large numbers that are following Tybee Island’s City Council’s recent decision to cancel their Independence Day firework show out of concern for overcrowding. Officials said Saturday’s traffic caused multiple accidents and prevented ambulances from getting onto the island.
“25,000 people coming to the island, it over taxes the police department, our parking enforcement, our fire department,” Gillen stated.
Tybee Island city officials said although the city has no COVID-19 cases, they are working to prepare for the crowds they are anticipating on Memorial Day weekend. Visitors told WSAV News 3 that they “weren’t worried about the crowds.”
“I would say that if people are concerned about being around people and they’re concerned about the pandemic then maybe you want to stay in for a little bit longer rather than getting out, I think the freedom to do that is very important. We live in America, it’s a free country so if you’re not comfortable stay home and if you are comfortable get out but practice with respect of others and law enforcement,” Gloria Judd, a visitor from Tennessee said.
Gillen said the city is planning to increase the number of law enforcers on the island, and will be having all of their life guards on duty.
He said the city is trying to “get a handle” on the crowds before they hit what city officials described as a potential for “record numbers” over Memorial Day weekend.